EASING IN TO FITNESS
Rachelle Reed, PhD, is the Director of Global Fitness Science for Orangetheory Fitness, headquartered in Boca Raton, Florida. Orangetheory Fitness is a national supporter of the American Heart Association and has conducted a member giving campaign through Life Is Why We Give the past two years.
It’s no secret that regular physical activity is an important contributor to both mental and physical health; but, many people recovering from cardiovascular events or surgeries may be apprehensive to start moving again. Recent research suggests that increasing your physical activity in the year following a cardiovascular event is associated with decreased mortality and improved quality of life. So the questions remain: how much physical activity is enough, and how should someone actually start moving more?
Let’s cover the recommended dose of exercise first. According to the American Heart Association, adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, plus 2 days or more of strength training each week. Additionally, adults should aim to move more and sit less, as even light-intensity activities like walking to your mailbox can help offset the risks associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Below are three evidence-based tips to help you strategically increase your physical activity:
Start Slow and Low with SMART Goals: All movement is good movement; even a 5-minute walk at a slow pace and low intensity level helps initiate favorable physiological and psychological changes in your body. Following a cardiovascular event, it’s important to work with your medical team on a strategy that helps you get and stay active over time. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. As you begin a new exercise routine, remember to be kind to yourself and set reasonable goals. Rather than jumping in head-first, start slowly. For example, start by taking a 10-minute walk most days of the week, then gradually add time as you’re able. Consider writing down your goals so that you can check back on them in a month or two.
Increase your N.E.A.T.: While developing an exercise routine is certainly important, increasing your non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or “N.E.A.T.”, also plays a significant role in your metabolic health. N.E.A.T. is the energy expenditure of all physical activities outside of exercise, including everything from walking around your house to brushing your teeth. Try implementing one of the strategies below to increase your N.E.A.T.:
- Try setting an alarm to stand up and move around for a few minutes every hour.
- Park farther away from the main door to the grocery store and get some extra steps in.
- Call a friend or family member and go for a walk as you catch up.
Have an Accountability Partner: Evidence suggests that social support increases your chances of maintaining your exercise behaviors over time. Scheduling a workout with a friend or family may help hold you accountable, while also doubling as social time. As you recover from a cardiovascular event, having support from friends and loved ones makes a big difference in all areas of your life, even with physical activity!